|By Shannon Muchmore, Tulsa World,
Okla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 10, 2010--With its renovation project complete, the larger and more aesthetically pleasing Tulsa Convention Center will open to the public next weekend.
The $50.5 million project that began in September 2008 added meeting rooms, upgraded lights and flooring and included the state's largest ballroom at 30,000 square feet.
The changes to the center built in the 1960s and last renovated in the 1980s were funded by the Vision 2025 program that voters passed in 2003. A new entrance north of the existing convention center includes a 250-panel glass wall that complements a similar wall that flows toward the building from the BOK Center next door.
The expanded, freshened-up center will be shown off to the public Saturday during a grand opening for the ballroom from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
"We really want people to come out and see the new space," said John Bolton, the center's general manager. "We think they'll be really impressed."
The new center will attract more conventions and events to Tulsa and should spur the ongoing revitalization of downtown, said Kathy Tinker, director of convention sales and marketing.
Hotel space and other activities for spouses, children and those attending conventions are part of what helps a center bring in large groups that will spend money dining and buying merchandise in Tulsa, Tinker said.
"Anything we can do downtown helps us," she said. "We're not an island here."
After a new Holiday Inn opens soon, the downtown area will have about
1,200 hotel rooms available. More success will lead to more hotel expansion, which will likely spark more restaurants and more retail, officials said.
People coming to the convention center from out of town will rent cars, eat meals and entertain themselves in Tulsa, injecting cash directly into the city's economy, Tinker said.
Tulsa Vision Builders Project Manager Jason Martin said the remodeling of the north and south entrances, including several lighting and signage additions, enhanced outdoor areas.
"I really like it at night," he said. "It really stands out nicely."
The ballroom has serpentine metal panel roofing, and 10 new meeting rooms were created, he said.
Bolton said small details such as terrazzo flooring, fresh paint, new artwork and improved handrails will create a positive impression.
"You really get a feeling that this is a really nice place, and I think that will make us more competitive," he said.
Tinker said new electronic marquees and the open house will show residents how the renovated center will help Tulsa.
"People who have lived in the city a number of years will appreciate all the changes we've made," she said.
Ballroom Grand Opening and Public Open House Where: Tulsa Convention Center, 100 Civic Center
When: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
What: Live music, $1 concessions and prize giveaways to celebrate the opening of Oklahoma's largest ballroom
Annual events at the Tulsa Convention Center Average before; projected after.
National / regional conventions
--Before renovation: 9
After renovation: 17
Shannon Muchmore 581-8378 firstname.lastname@example.org
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